Season in Review: JRM No. 8 Team Makes Noise with Berry, Mayer

Ron Lemasters | 12/20/2021

Dale Earnhardt Jr. Josh Berry Miguel Paludo News Sam Mayer Taylor Moyer

The No. 8 Chevrolet team saw four drivers get behind the wheel this year, including Josh Berry, who drove to Victory Lane at Martinsville in the spring.

MOORESVILLE, N.C. (Dec. 20, 2021) -- The No. 8 Chevrolet for JR Motorsports featured four drivers in 2021, visited Victory Lane once and ended the season with a show of speed. Josh Berry (12 races), Sam Mayer (17 races), Miguel Paludo (three races) and Dale Earnhardt Jr. (one race) gave crew chief Taylor Moyer a berth in the owner's championship playoffs and set the stage for 2022.

Berry, the longtime ace of JRM's Late Model team and 2020 NASCAR Advance Auto Parts Weekly Series national champion, handled the opening portion of the 33-race NASCAR Xfinity Series schedule in the No. 8 and impressed immediately with a solid run at Daytona International Speedway, a track he had never raced on.

That would be a theme for the 31-year-old Tennessee driver in his first opportunity at extended action in one of NASCAR's three national series.

In 14 starts in the No. 8 Chevrolet, Berry earned one victory, three top-five and five top-10 finishes, impressive enough in its own right but doubly so when considering that 10 of those starts came at tracks he'd never raced on in NXS competition.

Berry's first victory came just six starts into his season at Martinsville Speedway. Berry had raced there before in Late Models, winning the ValleyStar Credit Union 300 in 2019. He led all 200 laps after setting a track record in qualifying on the way to his first grandfather clock trophy. In the NXS car, Berry used much of the same strategy, leading 95 laps and holding off teammate Noah Gragson over the final stint to earn the victory.

"Obviously, my time with the No. 8 team was life-changing for me," Berry said. "It really solidified me as a driver at this level. Early in the season, we could tell we had speed, and we just had to put races together. Then I won at Martinsville, and that kind of changed the course of the rest of my time there. I really enjoyed it and am really thankful.

"Obviously, the win at Martinsville was big. The races following that were just as, if not more, impressive than winning Martinsville for me. It made a huge difference in my career."

Berry posted runner-up finishes at both Darlington and Dover in back-to-back starts, ran seventh at Las Vegas early in the season and finished 10th at Homestead-Miami Speedway. In his first extended action at the NXS level, Berry led 151 laps in the No. 8 Chevrolet.

"It was unbelievable," Berry said. "Things kind of came in waves, especially after Martinsville. The runs we had after that continued to create opportunities and I got to run a ton more than I ever expected. I got a lot of experience that I'm going to be extremely grateful for next season, experiencing new tracks...it was nice to get the additional experience."

For a Late Model driver making the jump to one of the top series in the sport, Berry held his own and then some, earning a lot of experience along the way. The moment, for Berry, was not too big.

"It was more than what I expected," he said. "I knew how tough the series is, and I knew what I was up against not having practice and things like that. Some of the things were not as big a deal as I expected. Our cars were really good and it wasn't that big a deal. "Taylor (Moyer) was great, and I enjoyed getting the experience with him. He does a great job. I felt ready going into this year, but you can never count on what has happened for me actually happening. It's been pretty amazing."

Mayer, who turned 18 a day before taking over the No. 8 for the second half of the season, showed speed from the moment he stepped into the seat. Mayer ran near the front in many of his 17 starts, leading 57 laps. The majority of those laps led came at Bristol Motor Speedway in the fall, when the young driver paced the field for 49 laps, dueling with teammate Justin Allgaier and others.

"Overall, it was a really good season for us as a team, because we learned a lot about each other and I learned a lot about these cars," Mayer said. "I am able to take that into next year, going full-time and for a championship. I'm able to take what I learned about these cars and these race tracks, so overall it was a good learning year.

"The most important thing I learned was probably the aerodynamics of the bigger tracks," he continued. "Being a short-track driver who has only been able to run short tracks these last couple of seasons, going to the bigger tracks was an adjustment and it definitely took time for me to learn, but by the end of it, I figured everything out and am ready to go for 2022."

For the season, Mayer logged a fourth-place finish at Martinsville, the cutoff race for the Championship 4, and added six top-10 results. He was eighth at Kansas Speedway, ninth at Bristol and Atlanta Motor Speedway, and 10th on the road courses at Watkins Glen and the Charlotte Roval.

"The biggest thing was just learning to trust the things I didn't know yet," Mayer said of his first experience at the NXS level. "In this industry, you don't know what you don't know, and the only way to learn is to experience it. I experienced a bunch of negative things this year, unfortunately, but I was able to learn from them the hard way. It's kind of a mixed bag of good and bad but either way, I still learned, and I'm ready to go for the positives next year."

Paludo, in conjunction with BRANDT Professional Agriculture, started three events in the No. 8, all on road courses. The Brazilian driver, whose Porsche GT3 Cup car is sponsored by BRANDT in his home country, started the stint with a fine seventh-place result on the road course at Daytona in the second race of the season. Paludo made the most of a late-race restart to earn the top-10 result. In the rain at Circuit of the Americas, Paludo fell victim to a mechanical issue to finish 34th, and he was 27th at Mid-Ohio in the summer after contact during a green-white-checkered restart forced the No. 8 into the outside retaining wall.

Team owner Dale Earnhardt Jr. made his annual start at Richmond Raceway on the 20th anniversary of the terror attacks on 9/11, finishing 14th with a special 9/11-themed Unilever "United for America" paint scheme.

Berry's win at Martinsville locked the team into the owner's championship, and the No. 8 ended the season 12th in the final standings.

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XFINITY Series Schedule

  • August 20 03:00 PM ET
    NXS Race at WGIWatkins Glen International
  • August 26 07:30 PM ET
    Wawa 250Daytona International Speedway
  • September 3 03:00 PM ET
    Sport Clips Haircuts VFW Help A Hero 200Darlington Raceway
  • September 10 03:00 PM ET
    Kansas Lottery 300Kansas Speedway
  • September 16 07:30 PM ET
    Food City 300Bristol Motor Speedway

XFINITY Series Standings

After New Holland 250

Michigan International Speedway | 8/6/2022
RankDriverPointsBehind
1AJ Allmendinger8350
2Justin Allgaier816-19
3Ty Gibbs807-28
4Noah Gragson748-87
5Josh Berry737-98
6Austin Hill #664-171
7Brandon Jones634-201
9Sam Mayer578-257